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Dr. Kimberly Balsam Receives Shining Star Award from National Multicultural Conference and Summit

Kimberly Balsam

  PAU professor Kimberly Balsam, PhD, was recently honored with  the 2022 National Multicultural Conference and Summit Shining Star Award, which recognizes mid-career psychologists who exemplify “a commitment to multicultural research, teaching, advocacy, policy, and/or clinical care."   The award was delivered on January 6 at The National Multicultural Conference and Summit (NMCS), which convenes scholars “to inform and inspire multicultural theory, research, practice, and advocacy.” The Conference and Summit envisions multiculturalism as “as intersections of experiences related to age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity and expression, indigenous heritage, national origin, race, spirituality, religion, sexual orientation, social class and socioeconomic status, and other social identities."   For Dr. Balsam, Director of both PAU’s LGBTQ Area of Emphasis and the Center for LGBTQ Evidence-Based Applied Research (CLEAR), her work is deeply personal and “near and dear to my heart.”   “This award is particularly meaningful to me coming from NMCS, which I’ve been attending since it began,” Dr. Balsam said. “As someone who has worn many hats as a clinician, educator, researcher, and activist, it’s a rare and special thing to be at a conference where I can bring all these parts of myself.”   She described the NMCS as a place where psychologists could even go beyond statistical and clinical approaches, and engage in “difficult dialogues and work with the complexity of multicultural psychology and especially intersectionality.”   In her acceptance speech, Dr. Balsam reflected on her career: “My career has spanned a time of overwhelming change for LGBTQ+ communities. When I started in the late 1990s, focusing on LGBTQ+ populations seemed far-fetched and even ill-advised. Several people warned me against it, believing the stigma of studying this marginalized population would hamper my career and job opportunities. I’m so glad I didn’t listen to that advice. Prompted by my own personal journey, I wanted to do research that would illuminate the unique challenges and strengths of LGBTQ+ people and ultimately promote healing and acceptance. In recent years, it’s been particularly meaningful to train and mentor the next generation of LGBTQ+ psychologists who are now out there transforming systems and communities to be more inclusive and equitable for LGBTQ+ people.”   Dr. Balsam was nominated for the Shining Star Award by Dr. Em Matsuno, whom she supervised as a postdoctoral fellow at CLEAR, and Drs. Ruth Fassinger and Arlene Noriega, both past presidents of Division 44 who served as her own mentors.   She noted there’s still more work to be done, even though her focus on LGBTQ+ populations is more embraced than in the 1990s. She highlighted the need to make psychology safer and more affirming for LGBTQ+ people, especially for those who are people of color, transgender and nonbinary, and the community’s youngest and oldest members.    It is her vision that every psychology trainee would receive a solid foundation of knowledge and skills in LGBTQ+ cultural competence. She said, “It’s my hope that as a profession, we will stay grounded in cultural humility, open to learning, accountable for our mistakes, and motivated to do better.”